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Saturday, May 7, 2005

Pope wants less dialogue in 'America.'

The Vatican has forced the editor of America, the Jesuit magazine, to resign because the magazine had published articles critical of some church positions. Laurie Goodstein reports on the front page of the Times:

In recent years America has featured articles representing more than one side on sensitive issues like same-sex marriage, relations with Islam and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be given communion. Church officials said it was the publication of some of these articles that prompted Vatican scrutiny.

Even a few conservative Catholic editors expressed surprise about the Rev. Thomas J. Reese's resignation.

"I'd think of him as sort of a mainstream liberal," said Philip F. Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, a news outlet on the more conservative end of the spectrum. "I think he's been reasonably politic. I watched him during the transition, and I cannot think of a single thing I heard that would have put him in jeopardy."

And First Things editor the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus offered the Times this George Willicism:

"It would be fair to say that during the pontificate of John Paul II that America apparently saw itself or at least certainly read as a magazine of what some would describe as the loyal opposition. And, needless to say, there's dispute over the definition of 'loyal' and the definition of 'opposition.'"

Needless to say, I will be intrigued to see Neuhaus tackle the question of how (and where) dialogue should be conducted among Catholics. Imagine, for example, how he might approach the "theory" of papal infallibility now that we've seen how he approaches the "theory" of evolution:

Intellectual freedom and integrity require that all pertinent evidence and lines of reasoning be taken into account in forming speculations, hypotheses, and theories regarding that great question.

Or should Catholics simply conclude that the Vatican has already taken all pertinent evidence into account — the impertinent evidence having been summarily dispatched — and that you can just take the rest of your lines of reasoning right on out the door? Scientists should remain in a state of perpetual suspense about the adequacy of their theories because after all a theory just can't compete with a doctrine, but in matters of faith you can just stop asking questions before someone disputes the amount of "loyal" in your "opposition." It's all so suddenly clear!

("Vatican Is Said To Force Jesuit Off Magazine," Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 5.7.05, reg req'd; "Editor of Jesuit Weekly Is Ousted," Mary Voboril [Newsday], Boston Globe 5.7.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 7 May 2005 at 12:11 PM

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May 7, 2005 09:29 PM | Permalink for this comment

One of my Catholic friends, the theology Ph.D. student Baptized Pagan, writes:

Fr. Reese, whose book Inside the Vatican is a solid political science analysis of the Vatican as institution, is not a wild-eyed, NCR-subscribing, Call-to-Action-attending radical. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, the blogger quickly adds, before half of his friends jump down his throat.) Reese, on his own and through America's pages, is one of the more moderate, Common Ground-oriented voices in the Catholic church in the U.S. today. . . .

[T]he apparent complaint was not that America was radically undermining church teaching, but that by presenting opposing viewpoints on issues like Dominus Iesus, gay priests, and issues around communion for politicians supprotingn abortion, America was not supporting church teaching strongly enough. This reminds me right away of the case of Bob Nugent and Jeannine Gramick, who were disciplined by the CDF not for contradicting church teaching on homosexuality, but for not teaching it forcefully enough. Lisa Sowle Cahill's article on that case back in August of 1999 (in America, ironically) presciently foresees and warns of this move towards a "maximalist criterion of conformity" which, bluntly, comes close to theologians and pastoral ministers being instructed not only to be faithful to church teaching, but to "say it like you mean it". If the only option for adherence to church teachings of differing theological weights is to shout back one's assent loudly and clearly or be cast into the outer darkness, then, IMHO, we're both cheating ourselves of the reasoned debate our church has historically prized and we're in danger of ideologically covering up a situation in which faithful Catholics' real questions need and deserve conversation. If you've ever taught a student or child, you know that it's very easy to have a response parroted back to you in the proper language and, with some encouragement, that response can be louder or appear more convincing. But the moment the phrase "say it like you mean it" leaves your lips, you know that you've left the context of education and entered a discourse of raw power.

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